Sentencing postponed for executive convicted in largest raid on illegal immigrants
October 28, 2010 § Leave a comment
(AP) — The sentencing hearing for the only company executive convicted following the nation’s largest workplace raid on illegal immigrants was postponed again after federal prosecutors in Mississippi filed sealed motions in the case. Jose Humberto Gonzalez, the former personnel director of Howard Industries, was the only executive charged in relation to a massive federal raid in August 2008 that ended with the detention of nearly 600 illegal immigrants. Gonzalez pleaded guilty Dec. 9, 2009, to conspiracy, admitting that he knowingly hired illegal immigrants at Howard Industries’ transformer plant in Laurel. He faces five years in prison. His sentencing was scheduled for Thursday, but U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett postponed it until Jan. 6. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gaines H. Cleveland filed two sealed motions Oct. 8, and had also filed two sealed motions before Starrett postponed the August sentencing date. Two of Gonzalez’s attorneys did not respond to questions this week about whether he is cooperating with authorities in their investigation, or about who is paying for his defense. The U.S. attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a message left late Wednesday by The Associated Press. When Gonzalez pleaded guilty, defense attorney Frank Trapp told the AP outside of court that no other Howard executives knew the company employed illegal immigrants. Howard Industries has said it cooperated in the federal government’s investigation, but has refused to discuss the case in depth. The company said in a statement that it always had “a strict policy to hire only U.S. citizens or those who have legal authorization to work in the United States” and has since implemented even more safeguards, including a fingerprint identification system for its employees. In 2002, Mississippi lawmakers approved a $31.5 million, taxpayer-backed incentive plan for Howard Industries to expand its operations and hire more workers.
The 12-count indictment in the case accused Gonzalez of instructing some workers to obtain fake documents and hiring one man who had previously worked at the plant under a different name. It also alleged he knowingly hired people after the Social Security Administration told him their identities were not valid. He pleaded guilty to one count. His attorneys and prosecutors have declined to discuss the plea deal. Most of the workers detained in the raid were deported in the following months. Several were charged with offenses related to identity theft.